Bush Auctions Off National Forests
by Gary Boatwright, Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 05:35:12 AM EST
The Environment just became a major issue for the 2006 election. In an incredibly blatant bait and switch, Bush has inserted orders to the Forest Service to engage in the largest sale of federal land since Teddy Roosevelt established our national forest system.
Large Sale of Forest Planned: The White House wants to help pay for rural roads and schools by auctioning 300,000 acres of what it considers non-vital parcels.The Bush administration Friday laid out plans to sell off more than $1 billion in public lands over the next decade, including 85,000 acres of national forest land in California.
Most of the proceeds would help pay for rural schools and roads, making up for a federal subsidy that has been eliminated from President Bush's 2007 budget.
Congress must approve the plans, which several experts said would amount to the largest land sale of its kind since President Theodore Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 and created the modern national forest system.
"This is a fire sale of public lands. It is utterly unprecedented," said Char Miller, professor of environmental history at Trinity University in Houston, who has written extensively about the Forest Service. "It signals that the lands and the agency that manages them are in deep trouble. For the American public, it is an awful way to understand that it no longer controls its public land."
How transparent is this land grab of our precious national resources?The Forest Service's proposed budget for 2007 is $4.1 billion, down about $160 million from 2006.
So we have to sell a billion dollars worth of national parks to make up a $160 million shortfall in the Forest Service budget?
But it's for the kids!Rey added: "Education of rural schoolchildren, that's an investment in the nation's future as important as any other investment we could make. That purpose justifies the approach we're proposing.
So where does the money from selling off our national forests go?
Am I missing something, or is there a really huge disconnect here? If the money goes into the general fund, then there is nothing except a rhetorical linkage between funding rural schools and selling off our national land.Feinstein said that though funding of rural schools and roads should continue, it shouldn't be through the sale of public lands. Noting that California's rural counties received $69 million from the program, Feinstein said, "a stable funding source must be provided, but not at the expense of our wilderness."
Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said continued funding for rural roads and schools should come from the general fund, not public land sales.
"The administration found billions to fund subsidies for energy company boondoggles, so I have trouble believing they couldn't find the money in this budget environment to maintain support for rural Oregon counties," he said in a statement.
Does the Democratic Party have the spine to stop this transparent ploy? I doubt it a lot. We shall see.